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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Soundtrack Review: 'Suicide Squad'

Suicide Squad: Original Motion Picture Score is big, brash, and doesn't care what you think. And that's awesome.


Review by Matt Cummings

With DC's Suicide Squad taking home the most box office receipts for an August release, it's no wonder that its score from Steven Price might be one of many reasons for the film's success. Driven by a litany of epic moments, Suicide Squad: Original Motion Picture Score announces to the world that it's here, not going anywhere, and that you'd better get used to it. And we're OK with that as it becomes our new favorite superhero score of the year.

Having already locked up a collection of dangerous metahumans including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the shadowy government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) hatches a plan to use them as disposable weapons. The deal: serve on an elite team she's putting together and see your sentence reduced. Adding bombs in their skulls to keep them in line, Waller also hires Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to lead them, who's also being manipulated by Waller. You see, Flag has entered into a relationship with archaeologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne) aka Enchantress, a horrific witch who can instantaneously travel anywhere using dark magic grown through 6,000 years of immortality. Not only is Waller planning to send the Squad to hotspots all over the world, she is keenly worried about battling the next Superman with metahuman assets. While she assembles the Squad, other forces are also at work to derail them, including none other than The Joker (Jared Leto), whose love for Harley has corrupted her into a violent psychopath. But when Waller's plan backfires and Enchantress goes AWOL in distant Midway City, Waller calls on The Suicide Squad to defeat the witch and save a human asset with knowledge that can help them. That won't be easy, as the Squad has plans of their own to escape and kill as many people in the process. The result will test their humanity and ability to play nice with others, while Flag and his team wonder if The Squad is more dangerous than the creature they've been sent to defeat.

Composer Price, who won the Oscar in 2014 for Gravity, adopts the free spirit of the DC comic to bring us a big and brash score that thumbs its nose at anyone who thinks that sort of music is overplayed in today's films. Utilizing a wide variety of sounds including violins that drive the beat to choir interludes, Price assembles his own kick-ass squad of sound. It's unclear how much organic sounds he's using here, but it's clear that he has an excellent hold on what a film like this needs. If you've seen Squad, you know a score like Gravity just wouldn't work; so here he pushes all the chips to the center and produces a continuous cacophony of drum beats, fabulous voices, and even the occasional sound effect to heighten the already dark mood. There's a whopping 30 tracks here, most of which resonate with the Price's theme for the Squad.

From the opening track Task Force X, Price sets the tone for the album, starting with foreboding violins, then a piano, and finally a drum kit/electric guitar. He wastes no time in previewing most of the sounds he'll eventually use, before launching into the dark and chaotic Arkham Asylum, which gives the location a great theme of its own. From there, you'll be treated to a very solid set of both tender ballad moments before heading back into the darker realms (Track 3's I'm Going to Figure This Out) with portions of Hans Zimmer's BvS score mixed in here. That little move is a smart one, because it binds those two words together, in a way that I've not seen since Jerry Goldsmith borrowed elements of the Star Trek TOS for his magnificent run of feature films.

It would be impossible to discuss each track, especially the set of 8 bonus ones that come with the digital download. There's nothing cheap or chintzy involved with the bonus tracks, making me wonder why they couldn't have added a second disc to the brick and mortar release (maybe cost?). But I love the diversity of music that Price creates, some of which will remind you of Danny Elfman's original Batman run. I also can't provide a best-of list because so many of these are strong, but look at track 4 (I Want to Assemble a Task Force) and Task Force X Activated. These and the ones I've mentioned represent just a fraction of what Price delivers.

Just like this year's Neon Demon, Price doesn't skimp on the amount of quality full-length tracks; very few of them feel like transition markers that populate most scores these days. Take a piece like That's How I Cut and Run: it's got a great fast pace to it that matches the gunwork by Deadshot as he takes down Enchrantress' demon horde, mixing up both the arrangement about halfway through the track and again incorporating Zimmer's main theme. I'd love to see Price become more of a mainstream name, as his work on 2014's Fury is also memorable. Here, he adds a new layer to that Zimmer melody, slowing it down a bit while incorporating entirely new music around it. Some might complain that Price uses too many of these electronic sounds, but I think that directly benefits the film's rather bitter tone. This isn't an uplifting film at all, and I think Price and Director-Writer David Ayer understand that, even though critics have slayed this film. There shouldn't be any complaints about the score, and again you might be better off buying the digital copy if you want the 8 bonus tracks, which I recommend as well.

When a composer takes big risks like Price does here, success is not always guaranteed. But Suicide Squad: Original Motion Picture Score makes for a big, bold, and beautiful experience; and just like the movie it doesn't care what you think. Add yet another winner from WaterTower Music that's ready for your earbuds or 7.1 surround setup. In a year filled with so many great scores, Price's brooding and pounding soundscapes will no doubt find a place among the top efforts of 2016. It certainly reminds us that relatively unknown composers like Price are out there waiting to get the credit they deserve, and that scores need not be done in an assembly line commanded by a small number of composers.

Suicide Squad: Original Motion Picture Score is now available on CD and digital download.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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